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Resolution regarding the location of the
'India-Based Neutrino Observatory'



September, 2009

1. We, the undersigned scientists, environmentalists and socially concerned individuals applaud India's significant scientific achievements and fully support the role that India plays in conducting cutting edge scientific research.

2. However, we have serious concerns related to the location of the proposed Indian Neutrino Observatory. We firmly believe that locating the observatory on this site, which is in the buffer zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, poses a serious threat to the flora and fauna of this fragile ecosystem. Based on various discussions we have resolved to highlight the unsuitability of the current chosen site.

• There is global consensus that the biggest crisis in the world today is the environment. Large scale destruction and degradation and loss of biodiversity happening all over the world, which is directly affecting us human beings as eco system services are breaking down. Water is becoming more and more scarce, climate change and global warming are being witnessed all around. Hence protecting our forests and wildlife should be of the highest priority.
• The proposed site is within the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve – the first Biosphere Reserve in India and of global importance. As per the United Nations guidelines, research initiatives that feed conservation are welcome. But the INO research has no bearing on conservation.
• Though the INO proponents claim a country wide site search was conducted, no corresponding reports documenting their efforts are available. All available documents suggest only two sites have been considered, both in ecologically sensitive zones.
• The tunnel portal is less than one kilometre from the boundary of the Mudumalai Critical Tiger Habitat, and inside the proposed Buffer Zone of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. As per the Supreme Court Order [W.P- (C)460 of 2006 dated 04/12/2006] and the Ministry of Environment and Forest [circular no. L-1101/7/2004-IA II(I)], any project within 10 kilometres require special consideration by the National Board for Wildlife.
• The region – the Sigur Plateau – provides the only vital link between Mudumalai/Bandipur/Nagarhole Tiger Reserves and Sathyamangalam/Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Sanctuary/Bannergatta National Park. It is a vital corridor, especially for elephants and other large mammals.
• The INO project proposes to tunnel into the Glenmorgan mountain, once home to the Endangered Nilgiri Tahr. The habitat is still healthy, and a reintroduction programme is being considered as it has the potential to support 200-300 tahr.
• The project involves tunnelling to the tune of 2,25,000 cubic metres or 630,000 tons of debris. Irrespective of whether it is stored on-site or moved out in trucks (approx. 78,700 truckloads), this will have a negative impact on the flora and fauna of the region.
• The construction material to be brought to the site is approximately 147,000 tons (18,000 truckloads). This is via 35 kilometres of roads through both the Mudumalai and Bandipur Tiger Reserves, and will cause a lot of disturbance to the region.
• History has shown that every development project has led to an explosion of the local population. The Sigur plateau is already over burdened, and cannot handle any more strain. Even if handled well, investing a large sum of 900 crores in the region is undoubtedly going to cause massive development.
• The requirement of 342,000 litres of water and 3 mega watts of electricity a day, though claimed to be insignificant by the INO team, should indeed be considered, given it is a region with low rainfall and forms part of the watershed for the Bhavani river and the Cauvery basin.
• The region is home to 15 threatened species (as per the Environmental Impact Assessment by the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History), and no assessment has been done on the impact of the project on these species.
• We find it ironic that local communities are being displaced or their access to resources curtailed both within the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve as well as for maintaining the integrity of the wildlife corridor on the Sigur plateau, while at the same time areas that are supposed to then be ‘inviolate’ are being opened up for such projects.
• Last and most important is the Environmental Impact Assessment of the project. It has been reviewed by experts, and exposed as being a weak document that does not in anyway assess the damage that is likely to be caused to the region. The authors themselves admit it is based on 'secondary sources' and 'guesstimate'. It does not in anyway measure what damage is going to be caused to the region. It is essential that the project is not allowed to come up in the said region without a more thorough and comprehensive assessment of the environment impact. 

3. We understand that some reputed environmental scientists consider that the damage that is caused can be mitigated if a sizeable percentage of the INO budget is fed into conservation. We do not agree with this reasoning, especially when a thorough assessment of the damage has not been completed. Further, damage caused to one ecosystem cannot be undone or
compensated by conserving another ecosystem, especially given that India already has such little area left under some form of ‘natural’ cover.

Hence it is resolved that based on presently available data, the India-based Neutrino Observatory should not be allowed to come up in the Singara area of the Nilgiris. 

Signed:

1. A. C. Soundararajan
Life Member: Nilgiri Wildlife and Environmental Association,
Member: Tamilnadu Wildlife Board,
Member: Mudumalai Tiger Conservation Foundation.

2. A. J.T Johnsingh
Ex-Dean, Wildlife Institute of India,
Member: IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group,
Member: IUCN Cat Specialist Group,
Member: IUCN Mountain Ungulate (Caprinae) Specialist Group,
Member: IUCN Bear Specialist Group,
Member: Mudumalai Tiger Conservation Foundation.

3. Ajay Desai
Co-Chair: IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

4. Amirtharaj Christy Williams
Member: IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group,
Member: IUCN Asian Wildcattle Specialist Group,
WWF Asian Elephant and Rhino Program.

5. Ashish Kothari
Kalpavriksh.

6. Belinda Wright
Executive Director, Wildlife Protection Society of India,
Member: National Board for Wildlife,
Member: IUCN Cat Specialist Group.

7. Bittu Sahgal
Editor, Sanctuary Magazine.

8. Bivash Pandav
Member: IUCN Cat Specialist Group.

9. Eric Wikramanayake
Member: IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

10. Geetha Srinivasan
Vice President, Nilgiri Wildlife and Environmental Association.

11. Hank Hammatt
Executive Director, Elephant Care International,
Member: IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

12. Jayantha Jayewardene
Managing Trustee, Biodiversity & Elephant ConservationTrust, Sri Lanka,
Editor, Gajah - the journal of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group,
Member: IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

13. Jean-Philippe Puyravaud
ECOS, Pondicherry.

14. Lori Eggert
Professor, University of Missouri,
Member: IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

15. M. D. Madhusudan
Nature Conservation Foundation,
Mysore.

16. Manori Gunawardena
Conservation Biologist
Dilmah Conservation Trust, Sri Lanka
Member: IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

17. Mike Keele
Chair AZA Elephant Taxon Advisory Group and Species Survival Plan.
Member: IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

18. Nitin Rai
Bangalore, India.

19. Peter Leimgruber
Landscape Ecologist,
Member: IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

20. Priya Davidar
Dean, School of Life Sciences, Pondicherry University.

21. Ravi Chellam
Bangalore, India.

22. Romulus Whitaker
Steering Committee, IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group
Madras Crocodile Bank.

23. Shekhar Dattatri
Wildlife Film Maker and Conservationist.

24. Snehlata Nath
Keystone Foundation,
Kotagiri.

25. Surendra Varma
Research Officer,
Asian Elephant Research and Conservation Centre,
(AERCC- A division of the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation – ANCF),
Member: IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

26. Vidya T.N.C.
Ramanujan Fellow,
Evolutionary and Organismal Biology Unit,
Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research ,
Member: IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group.




 

 

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